In Philly for conference, Catholic ‘consecrated virgins’ describe life choice


Her life may look trying to outsiders, but she says she’s got it made. 

Kathy Reda is married to the “CEO” of the universe, as she puts it, but also has time to work at her dream job as a nurse in Boston.

Reda is one of thousands of Catholic women around the world who have decided to live forever as virgins, but are not nuns. Known as “consecrated virgins,” they’re living in the world around us, laboring as nurses, teachers, psychologists and doctors.

About 40 consecrated virgins are meeting this week in Philadelphia for the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins’ annual convocation. On Wednesday, the women who see themselves as brides of Jesus Christ held a public question-and-answer session about their unique lives.

A reporter asked the consecrated virgins a frequently heard question: Do they have any regrets about their choice? “No!” several shouted back.

“Some people that I work with are just brutal,” said Reda. “They’re like, ‘Aren’t you going to be miserable or not satisfied if you don’t have a sexual relationship?’ And I said back, ‘I know a lot of people who are having sex who are not satisfied.'”

“I don’t wake up every day and say, ‘Oh! I’m not going to have sex today, or I’m not going to birth my own baby today,'” she added. “When you find your calling or your vocation from God, there’s just a grace with it. Truly, I am happy. It’s not like a prison sentence. It’s just a beautiful way of life.” 

Another question consecrated virgins often get is: What’s the difference between you and a nun? To Reda, it’s a separate calling entirely, one in which she can talk to people about religion who might otherwise be afraid to step inside of a church.

“We dress like everybody else. I don’t wear a habit, and I think people are very much less intimidated to come to us and ask good questions,” she said. “We’re able to be that not-intimidating face of the church.”

Consecrated virgins have been around since the beginning of the Catholic Church. Though they fell out of favor for a few hundred years, a 1970s religious decree breathed new life into the vocation. Now there are an estimated 3,000 consecrated virgins worldwide, according to Judith Stegman, president of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins. 

“It is [growing],” said Stegman, “as people learn about this vocation, as they ask, as they get clarified about what it is.”

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